The Peperomia houseplants are perfect for beginners or those who tend to be a tad neglectful when it comes to growing a houseplant. They sprout beautiful foliage and are super easy to grow. It’s the best of both worlds!
Throughout this article, we’ll discuss how to care for, grow, and revive a flourishing Peperomia.
The Peperomia genus includes many tropical plants. It is often referred to by other popular nicknames such as baby rubber plant (don’t confuse it with the rubber plant), pepper elder, radiator plant, shining bush plant, and UFO plant.
The genus belongs to the Piperaceae family and is native to South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. The plants are widely known for their striking foliage and diverse appearance.
Its leaves are glossy, thick, and fleshy. The Peperomia houseplants are in fact grown for their fantastic foliage rather than the flowers it blooms. Not only do they have an attractive appearance, but they’re drought tolerant and relatively low maintenance.
We will first briefly discuss the varieties and main characteristics of the plant before we dive into its care requirements.
Fun fact: In Greek, the word Peperomia means “resembling pepper”.
The Peperomia is made of more than 1,000 known species and each type has different colored and textured foliage.
- Peperomia argyreia: The ‘watermelon’ Peperomia has leaves with a pattern resembling that of a watermelon’s skin. Its oval foliage is decorated with light and dark green stripes.
- Peperomia obtusifolia: It is commonly called the Peperomia ‘green’ and has upright stems with large, glossy leaves that have white and yellow variegation.
- Peperomia maculosa: It has deep-green and glossy leaves with creamy pronounced veins.
- Peperomia caperata: This variation produces compact growth, and sprouts heart-shaped leaves from its short stems. The foliage can have either dark red or dark green veins as well.
- Peperomia piccolo banda: This houseplant has stunning silver-green leaves with thick purple veins.
- Peperomia pilea: It’s also known as the ‘Chinese money plant‘, UFO plant’, ‘friendship plant’, and ‘missionary plant’. This plant is recognizable due to its bright green and rounded leaves.
- Peperomia kimnachii: This plant has jade-green, oval-shaped leaves which are grown from reddish stems.
- Peperomia rosso: This variation has two other nicknames; ’emerald ripple pepper’ and ‘radiator plant’. It has uniquely dark and textured leaves that are bright red underneath and green on top.
- Peperomia pellucida: The houseplant has waxy, green foliage with light green spikes. It goes by a few other names too, such as ‘shiny bush’, ‘silver bush’, ‘rat ear’, and ‘clearweed’.
- Peperomia ferreyrae: The ‘pincushion’ Peperomia has thick, short leaves that almost look like green beans.
- Peperomia graveolens: Also referred to as ‘ruby glow radiator’, it sprouts leaves with a green color on the top and red color at the bottom, and it produces creamy-white flowers.
- Peperomia polybotrya: The ‘coin leaf’ or Peperomia ‘raindrop’ has heart-shaped leaves with white spikes. It is slightly larger than the average Peperomia and grows around 1 foot (30.5cm) tall.
- Peperomia scandens: This type of Peperomia has round emerald-green leaves with light green variegation.
- Peperomia pepperspot: It has small, glossy green leaves with red-green stems. It often has a bushy appearance and is perfect for a hanging basket.
- Peperomia ginny: This plant has gorgeous leaves with a dark green center, white variegation, and red edges.
How Big Does It Grow?
A healthy Peperomia can grow between 8 to 12 inches (20 – 30.5cm) tall and 6 to 12 inches (15 – 30.5cm) wide.
How Fast Does It Grow?
When cared for well, it is regarded as a speedy growing houseplant. It can produce an extra 3 to 4 inches (7.5 – 10cm) of new growth a year.
How Long Does It Live?
The Peperomia’s lifespan is dependent on the species and ranges from 5 to 10 years. The average houseplant usually only survives for around 5 years.
Is It Toxic to Cats, Dogs and Humans?
The Peperomia species is not toxic to pets or people. This means that you can place it anywhere in your home without worrying about poisoning young children, cats or dogs.
A Peperomia plant may be low maintenance but it still needs to be cared for well and grown in the right environmental conditions to survive. We’ll explore all of the care and environmental requirements below.
How Often to Water It
This houseplant is native to humid, and warm regions so it doesn’t require frequent watering. Typically, you should only water it once every 1 or 2 weeks during the spring or summer months.
You will need to adjust your watering schedule according to the weather, so the warmer it is the more water it needs, and the cooler it is the less water it requires.
A good rule to follow is that when the top 2 inches (5cm) of the soil is dry then you can water the plant.
When watering the pepper elder, it is best to wait until the water flows through the drainage holes. Always remember to allow the excess moisture to drain out before placing it back in its home.
Does It Need Drainage?
Drainage is vital for many houseplants like the Hoya, and this is no different when it comes to the Peperomia. This houseplant is slightly drought tolerant so it is highly susceptible to root rot if overwatered.
To prevent soggy conditions you must plant it in quick-draining soil and make sure that the container has at least 3 drainage holes.
A good pot and soil will allow any excess moisture to drain out, so the plant won’t end up sitting in a puddle of water.
The baby rubber plant doesn’t require heavy pruning unless you wish to remove any dead, damaged, or unhealthy foliage. You can also cut back leggy or long growth if you wish to maintain a compact and bushy appearance.
Generally, it only needs a light trim once a year during the springtime. We’ve set out a step-by-step guide to help you along the way.
- Sterilize your pruners with rubbing alcohol or diluted bleach before cutting any part of the plant.
- Examine the houseplant and check which sections need to be cut off.
- Take your shears/pruners and trim the stems down to the soil line or simply pick off the dead leaves.
- Water it well and position the plant back where it was previously kept.
A baby rubber plant prefers to be kept slightly root bound so it is only necessary to transplant it every 2 years. When repotting it make sure to do so during the springtime so that the plant’s roots aren’t exposed to extreme temperatures whilst removing it.
We recommend that you water the houseplant a day before repotting it, this way you’ll lessen the shock to the root system.
When choosing a new pot for your houseplant, you must use one that is 2 inches (5cm) wider and deeper than its previous container.
Check out the steps below:
- Remove the houseplant from the pot and carefully brush off the soil around the rootball.
- Place some fresh potting mix into a new pot and plant the Peperomia.
- Pat down the soil to anchor the houseplant.
- Position it back where it was previously grown.
The pepper elder can be placed in full or partial sunshine. You will have to alter the amount of sunlight it receives according to the seasons. During the summer it should be placed under indirect light while during the winter it must soak in full sunlight.
If you want to maintain a healthy and lush plant then find a place where it can bask in the sun for around 8 or 10 hours a day.
You will want to avoid planting it in any shady areas as this will result in leggy and slow growth.
A baby rubber plant thrives in soil with a neutral to acidic pH level, just like the Easter lily. Additionally, the potting mixture must be light, loose and loamy.
You can combine 1 part perlite and 1 part orchid bark for the ideal potting mix. Alternatively, soil made of equal parts peat moss and perlite is great too.
The pepper elder should be fed with a well-balanced, liquid fertilizer like 20-20-20. The optimal fertilizer should have an equal ratio of nitrogen, potassium, and iron.
Ideally, you should feed it once every 2 weeks during the spring and summertime. You can either forgo fertilizing it during winter and autumn, or you can feed it once a month.
Top tip: To prevent over-feeding the plant, you must dilute the fertilizer to half its strength.
Pot Size and Type
A baby rubber plant can be grown in either a plastic or terracotta container, however, a clay pot is best. The terracotta pot will allow moisture to evaporate faster and it prevents a houseplant from becoming waterlogged.
We previously mentioned that the houseplant can withstand being slightly pot bound so it doesn’t require a large container. It is ideal to grow it in a pot that is approximately 1 or 2 inches (2.5 – 5cm) wider than the width of its rootball.
The ideal temperature for a thriving Peperomia is between 60 and 80°F (15.5 – 26°C). The houseplant loves a warm climate as its native to tropical regions.
It can withstand slightly cooler temperatures but you should never let it sit in temperatures below 30°F (-1°C) as it won’t survive.
The pepper elder is native to tropical climates, just like the kentia palm, so it loves high humidity levels. The UFO plant grows in humidity levels of around 90 percent in its natural environment, but when grown as a houseplant it will do well in relative humidity levels of around 40 or 50 percent.
Humidity is vital for a healthy houseplant. If you live in a dry region then you should make an effort to increase the humidity levels surrounding the houseplant. When the humidity level is too low, its foliage will lose its glossy appearance.
Top tip: Misting the plant frequently or grouping it amongst other houseplants will improve the humidity levels surrounding the Peperomia.
Can You Grow It Outside?
This houseplant is best to grow indoors as it requires a warm and humid environment. You can plant it outside but only if you reside in USDA hardiness zones of 10 to 12.
If you do decide to plant it in your garden or grow it on your patio then you need to consider the following:
- Make sure that it is planted in a warm area, and as temperatures drop during the winter you may need to relocate it indoors.
- It will receive more sunshine outside, so make sure that it isn’t planted under direct sunlight.
- During the summertime, you will need to water and mist the plant more frequently.
They are brilliant indoor plants as they can tolerate a wide range of conditions and you can create the perfect environment for it, whereas, outdoors you have a limited amount of control.
The Peperomia rarely flowers when grown as a houseplant but it is possible to encourage indoor blooms. You can do so by ensuring it is watered well, survives through a cool winter, and is grown in a humid environment.
The flowers are small, long spikes that can be white, green, or brown. They bloom in summer but are fairly insignificant and only last for around 2 weeks.
It is best to snip the blooms off once they die so that energy can be redirected to new and healthy growth.
How to Grow It
There’s great news! You can multiply your Peperomia houseplant collection through multiple methods of propagation or by planting its seeds.
We’ll lead you through each one of these methods in the following sections.
You can propagate your houseplant in soil and water. Just like with most houseplants such as the Begonia, you’ll need to propagate it during the springtime.
Propagation in Soil
When propagating its cuttings or divisions, you must always make use of well-draining and aerated soil. We’ll explain each process in detail below.
How to Root Its Cuttings
You can grow a new houseplant by snipping off one of its stems and planting it in a rich potting mixture. If you have pruned your plant then save a healthy stem to propagate.
- Find a healthy-looking stem with 3 leaves attached to it and cut it off.
- Dip the cut area in rooting hormone.
- Prepare a new container with well-draining soil and plant the stem.
- Make sure to keep the soil moist and place the stem cutting in bright sunshine.
- In 3 to 4 weeks, it will produce new root growth.
- You only need to repot the plant when it is too big for its current container.
A leaf with at least 1 inch (2.5cm) of stem still attached to it can be placed in soil and you’ll see new growth emerge after a few weeks.
Follow the simple steps below:
- Pick a healthy leaf and plant it in a small container with rich potting soil.
- Find a sunny home and place the cuttings there. Keep in mind that the soil must be watered frequently to keep it moist at all times.
- In about 1 month this cutting will form new roots.
- You can repot it when it is large enough.
Propagating by Division
You can divide the rootball into smaller sections and plant them to grow a mature houseplant. All you have to do is check out the steps below.
- Take the plant out of its container and brush off the soil clinging to the rootball.
- Find a sharp knife and slice through the rootball, but make sure that each division has a good amount of healthy roots still attached to it.
- Pull the separate pieces apart and untangle the roots gently.
- Take out a new pot and put nutrient-rich soil inside, and then plant the divisions and water them.
- Place the new plants under warm sunshine and care for them well.
- After 4 to 5 weeks, you can give the plant a gentle tug to test whether or not it has rooted. If the plant has some resistance then its roots have successfully settled.
Propagating in Water
Just like you can propagate a stem or leaf cutting in soil, you can do it in water too. Always remember to check on the water and make sure that it doesn’t become murky. You may need to replace it every few days or the plant may become infected with bacteria.
Stem Cuttings in Water
Growing a stem cutting in water is easy. All you need to do is snip off a stem and place it in a glass of water before repotting it in soil.
- Cut off a stem with a few leaves still attached to it, and then apply a rooting hormone over the cut area.
- Prepare a glass with distilled water and place the cutting inside of it.
- Put the cutting by a bright windowsill and change the water frequently.
- After 4 to 6 weeks, the cutting will sprout new growth.
- You can then repot the stem cutting into some soil once the roots are long enough.
Leaf Cuttings in Water
You can place a leaf in a small jar of water before transplanting it into soil. It’s a fun way to watch it sprout new roots and monitor its growth.
- Pluck a leaf off of the stem and prepare a small jar with clean water.
- Place the cut end of the leaf into the water and monitor it for new growth.
- Find a bright and sunny home for the cutting.
- Typically, you will wait around 4 to 6 weeks before any roots begin to sprout.
- After new growth has emerged, you can then transplant it into soil and care for it as you normally would.
The Peperomia can be grown from a single seed. The key to germination is humidity and bright sunshine, so be sure to find a good spot for the seedlings.
Here’s a guide to planting its seeds:
- Fill a shallow tray with a soilless seed-starting mixture and moisten it.
- Sprinkle the seeds across the potting mixture and mist them lightly.
- Cover the tray with a plastic bag and place it under bright sunlight.
- You should notice new growth after 15 or 30 days, and then you can remove the plastic bag.
- Once the seedlings become large enough, you must repot them.
How to Revive It
The Peperomia may be easy to care for as it is low maintenance and can withstand some neglect but it can’t survive without any care. If it isn’t receiving the required TLC then it may run into a few issues.
Don’t freak out if your houseplant is looking different or dying because we’ll explain exactly what you need to do to revive it.
If you’ve noticed that the houseplant’s foliage has small black or brown spots then this must be dealt with immediately.
The spots are a sign of a variety of infectious leaf spot diseases which are caused by a few things. The plant may be under- or overwatered, over-fertilized, or grown in a dry or cool environment.
You will need to tweak your watering schedule to maintain moist potting soil that isn’t too soggy or saturated either.
If you have overfed the plant then simply flush out the fertilizer salts by running a gentle stream of water over the plant for 15 minutes.
You can increase humidity levels by placing an electric humidifier near the plant or you can move it into your bathroom.
Always remember that this houseplant thrives in a warm environment, so keep it away from shady or cool areas.
Leaves Falling Off
The Peperomia plant’s leaves may begin to drop when it isn’t watered properly. Improper watering can be detrimental to this houseplant. You will need to be careful to not over- or underwater it.
It is always best to feel the top 2 inches (5cm) of the soil before watering the plant if you’re unsure of when to water it.
The foliage begins to droop for a few reasons; a lack of humidity, a lack of water, or exposure to high temperatures.
This houseplant flourishes in humid regions so it is important that it’s grown in a moist environment. If your household humidity level is too dry then make sure to increase the humidity levels surrounding the plant.
If the soil is very dry then you must water it deeply, and wait until the water has dripped out the drainage holes. You will need to make sure that you water it more frequently in the future.
Although it prefers warm climates, it cannot withstand extreme temperatures. During the summertime, you may want to monitor your houseplant and if temperatures become very high then move it to a cool, shady area.
The houseplant’s leaves may become curly if it is exposed to extreme temperatures, direct sunlight, a lack of humidity, or if it’s underwatered.
You will need to make sure that it isn’t left to sit in frosty or very hot temperatures as it is sensitive to extreme temperatures. Simply, move your plant to a new location depending on the season.
The Peperomia prefers full or partial sunshine but during the summertime, the sun rays are too harsh for its foliage. You must place it in filtered sunshine or shade to allow it some time to recover.
A lack of humidity can be easily and quickly resolved by misting the houseplant or putting it near a humidifier.
When the soil is left to dry out for too long then your plant will begin to suffer. It’s important to provide it with enough water so that the soil is moist but not soggy.
When the foliage becomes yellow it may be caused by overwatering, a change in its environment, or a lack of sunshine.
It is highly sensitive to overwatering, so be wary when watering it especially during cooler months. You must ensure that it’s grown in well-draining soil and a pot with drainage holes to prevent root rot.
The houseplant may become shocked when abruptly moved to a new environment. You will have to allow it a week to adjust and then it’ll be good as new.
The plant’s foliage gets its glossy look when it receives plenty of sunlight. It is vital that it’s grown in full or partial sunshine to maintain its health and appearance.
The Peperomia genus is a great houseplant. It’s beautiful, vibrant, and low maintenance. You will be rewarded with stunning foliage and you don’t need to put in all the effort either.
All you need to do is position it in indirect sunlight, water it well, and make sure that it’s kept in a humid area, then you’re good to go.